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Labor Report

Happy Holidays from Senator Tartaglione

December is always a special time as we celebrate the company of family and friends, and as we reflect on our blessings as well as our many accomplishments of the past year. With those thoughts in mind, I’d like to wish everyone a joyous and happy holiday season! Please look for the next addition of the Labor Report in 2020.

– Senator Tartaglione

AFL-CIO Shares Comprehensive List of Union-Friendly Holiday Gift Ideas

Although the end of the annual holiday shopping season is near, there’s still time for consumers to show their union support by purchasing labor-friendly gifts. Each year, the AFL-CIO publishes a list of goods produced by union labor. This year’s comprehensive list includes clothing and accessories, beauty products, games, sports equipment, stocking stuffers, beer and wine, and even automobiles.

The list is compiled by Union Plus and features contributions from members of UNITE HERE; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco  Workers and Grain Millers International Union; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the United Steelworkers; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; the United Auto Workers; the United Food and Commercial Workers; the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; and the United Farm Workers.

Visit here for the complete list.

Three More Philly Schools Closed Due to Hazardous Asbestos

The School District of Philadelphia was forced to close three more public schools this week for emergency asbestos remediation, raising the total for the current academic year to six schools and further rousing concerns about a much bigger hazardous materials problem in the city’s 214 public schools.

On Friday, Laura H. Carnell and Alexander K. McClure elementary schools were each closed. They serve about 1,500 students combined in kindergarten through fifth grade. Three days earlier, the School District announced the temporary closing of Franklin Learning Center, a high school serving about 900 students. FLC is expected to reopen on January 2. A remediation schedule for Carnell and McClure had not been announced on Friday morning.

In reporting on the FLC situation, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers stated that faculty and staff members there submitted more than 50 complaints to the union in seven months regarding hazardous conditions in the building, including asbestos. The PFT responded by repeatedly asking the School District of Philadelphia to inspect FLC.

On December 17, the district inspected and immediately closed the facility – a building formerly known as William Penn High School for Girls – pending asbestos remediation. On December 18, an environmental firm hired by the district found exposed asbestos in several locations at Carnell and alerted the PFT. On December 19, union officials visited McClure to meet with staff about their own asbestos concerns. Numerous hazards were discovered during a four-hour tour of the building that included the School District’s environmental manager.

Although the extent of potential asbestos exposure among staff and students at the affected schools is not known,  in August a city schoolteacher was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer often linked to asbestos exposure. The PFT member had spent most of her 28-year career teaching at schools where hazardous asbestos has recently been discovered.

The PFT renewed its call for an immediate investment of $100 million for district-wide lead and asbestos remediation. For more information, visit the union’s website and Facebook page.

NLRB Rules in Favor of Employers Three Times as Lone Democrat Leaves Board

As the five-year term of the only Democrat member of the National Labor Relations Board was about to expire, the NLRB handed down three pro-employer decisions early this week.

All three rulings reversed precedents established by the Obama-era board when Democrats held a majority of seats on the five member panel. As of early this week, Republicans held three seats and one seat remained vacant. Board Member Lauren McFerran’s term ended on December 16, although she was able to provide dissenting opinions in the three cases.

In the first case, the board restored employers’ unconditional power to stop deducting and remitting union dues after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement requiring the so-called “dues checkoff provisions.” Employers long held that right until 2015, when the NLRB ruled that employers must continue to deduct and remit union dues after the expiration of a contract at least until the parties reach a “lawful impasse” in negotiations.

In a second case, the board restored employers’ right to impose confidentiality requirements on employees regarding pending workplace investigations. With that finding the board found that such workplace rules are “presumptively lawful” and that an employer’s “interests in preserving the integrity of an investigation outweighed employee Section 7 rights” regarding concerted activity by non-supervisory employees, including those not in a union.

The decision overruled a 2015 NLRB precedent that required employers to demonstrate just cause on a case-by-case basis for imposing confidentiality rules. noted that the new decision “comes at an interesting time in the wage of the #MeToo movement, as a number of states have passed (or have considered passing) legislation that will impact the enforceability of workplace non-disclosure provisions, particularly in the context of the settlement of workplace sexual harassment claims.” noted that the board “further held that an employer can impose confidentiality even after the investigation is complete without violating the NLRA if its legitimate reasons for imposing confidentiality outweigh” the negative impact on employees’ Section 7 rights.

In a third ruling, `the board found that employers are within their rights to prohibit employees from using company email for non-work-related messages. However, an employer cannot discriminate by allowing certain non-work messages while prohibiting others, such as union-related communications.

‘Retail Apocalypse’ Has Gotten Worse in 2019 and Is Expected to Continue

By the end of 2019, more than 9,300 retail stores across the country will have closed their doors for good during the calendar year, according to Business Insider, continuing a downward spiral for the sector that has become known as the “retail apocalypse.”

The reeling sector lost a record 102 million square feet of store space in 2017, followed by another 155 million square feet last year, the news agency reported, citing estimates released by the commercial real estate firm CoStar Group. The square footage total for 2019 is expected to surpass last year’s record.

Among the chains with the largest number of closings were Payless ShoeSource (2,500 locations), Gymboree (805), Dress Barn (650), Charlotte Russe (520), Fred’s (520), Family Dollar (390), Gap (230), Walgreens (200), GameStop (up to 200), Forever 21 (up to 178), Sears (175), Kmart (160), A.C. Moore (145), CVS Health (68), JCPenney (27), Lowe’s (20), Walmart (17), and Macy’s (9), among others.

There were 5,864 store closings in 2018 and 8,139 in 2017, according to USA Today, which cited a report by the global marketing research firm Coresight Research.

“The pain is expected to continue into future years, according to an April report from UBS Securities (which) said 75,000 more stores would need to be shuttered by 2026 if e-commerce penetration rises to 25% from its current level of 16%,” USA Today wrote. “A separate analysis by UBS said tariffs on Chinese imports could put $40 billion of sales and 12,000 stores at risk."

November 2019 PA Jobs Update

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose for a third consecutive month in November 2019 to 4.3%, up 0.1% from October’s rate of 4.2%. Over the month, unemployment rolls increased by more than 10,000 individuals, with total unemployment rising above 280,000. State unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 281,721
  • Change Over Month – UP     10,203
  • Change Over Year –  UP    11,356
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –  DOWN    78,565
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   DOWN   63,143
  • Rate Change Over Month – UP     0.1%
  • Rate Change Over Year –  UP    0.1%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term – DOWN     1.3%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –  DOWN    1.1%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, rose over the month (rate = unemployment / labor force). The labor force is the number of employed individuals combined with the number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Labor force growth can be a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. In November 2019, PA’s labor force rose for a fifth consecutive month, increasing by 17,977 individuals, a combination of total employment* rising by 7,774 and unemployment up by 10,203 as noted above. The labor force in November 2019 stood at a new record of high of 6.533 million.

Over Governor Wolf’s first term, the state’s labor force grew by 58,755 (employment +137,320 – unemployment -78,565) and is up 131,965 (employment +195,108 – unemployment -63,143) over both terms thus far. State labor force statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Labor Force – 6,533,953
  • Change Over Month –  UP    17,977
  • Change Over Year – UP     83,078
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   UP    58,755
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –  UP    131,965

PA non-farm* job rolls grew by 9,500 from October to November 2019, marking a fourth consecutive monthly increase and pushing total non-farm employment to a new record high of 6,070,500. Year-over-year (November 2018 to November 2019), a total of 48,400 new non-farm jobs have been added. Over Governor Wolf’s first term (Jan. 2015 – Jan. 2019), a total of 223,000 new non-farm jobs were added, roughly 71,000 more than were added over the four-year term of the prior Corbett Administration. The addition of 223,000 non-farm jobs over Governor Wolf’s first term ranked the commonwealth 35th out of 50 states for new percentage growth, an improvement from it’s ranking of 49th in the same survey over Governor Corbett’s term. Thus far through Governor Wolf’s second term, the commonwealth has added an additional 32,500 non-farm jobs, ranking it 29th out of 50 states for new percentage growth over this period and bringing total growth over both of his terms to 255,500. State non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 6,070,500
  • Change Over Month –  UP    9,500
  • Change Over Year –  UP    48,400
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term – UP     223,000
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP    255,500

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.